ran from 2007 to 2019 with twelve seasons and 279 episodes. The CBS sitcom drew a big audience, with the average viewership being 17 million people. The seventh and ninth seasons had an audience of 20 million people. Suffice it to say; the show was popular.
centered around a group of California Institute of Technology scientists: Sheldon Cooper (played by Jim Parsons), Leonard Hofstadter (played by Johnny Galecki), Howard Wolowitz (played by Simon Helberg), and Raj Koothrappali (played by Kunal Nayyar).
Sheldon and Leonard live together and have a woman as a neighbor that neither truly knows how to interact with—Penny (played by Kaley Cuoco). The show follows this group as they try to navigate life through quantum physics, comic books, and superheroes.
The Chuck Lorre-created show is one of the most successful comedy sitcoms. For something this funny and successful, fans speculated how much came from the writers and how much was improvised.
Arguably, one of the most notable improvisations came from
The episode is about Leonard and Penny getting back together and Sheldon writing Penny into the roommate agreement, only for the couple to break up.
After Sheldon stays up all night working on the contract, he wakes up with Leonard telling him they broke up. As the scene progresses and Leonard shares the news, Sheldon lets the contract fly into the air, only for the paper to land perfectly on his head.
Instead of Parsons laughing and breaking character, he delivers his line with paper as is—props to Galecki for not breaking character while this happens.
During a scene with Leonard, Howard, and Raj, Johnny Galecki fully breaks character. Many actors have said getting through a scene with Simon Helberg can be quite difficult because he's so funny.
In this scene, Howard says, "Who was he talking to, Emily or cinnamon? I want you to know the bed feels so lonely when you're not in it." Kunal Nayyar keeps it together and maintains a straight face, but Galecki fully starts laughing.
Despite his noticeable character break, it was kept in the show.
Although Sussman commented that improving wasn't common on the show, his improvisation solidified his character as a reoccurring role. When Leonard and Penny go to the comic book store to collect Sheldon, Penny speaks to Stuart for a moment.
When she turns to walk toward Leonard and Sheldon, Stuart mutters, "I love you." That I love you wasn't scripted.
With a cast stacked full of so many comedians, it's not an unreasonable thing to assume the cast improvised a bit. It's not a secret the writers are funny: the show has been nominated for and won many awards, including Emmys.
So, it begs the question, how much of the scripted series was actually scripted? According to Kevin Sussman—who played Stuart, the comic book store owner—there was no improvisation. He says, "The writers on are amazing."
"The cast doesn't improvise. Because we don't need to, the writers are so good that if a joke doesn't hit, the writers will converge on the spot and within three minutes have it rewritten—so it is funny."
He continues, "The writers on are probably the best in the business when it comes to on-the-spot writing. It's not a single-camera show like was. So, everything is very tightly-scored. There are four cameras all going at once, so everyone has to watch where their marks very closely. That doesn't leave any room for improvisation, really."
That's not to say the cast hasn't improvised; it's simply not as common as it is in other sitcoms.
Melissa Rauch—who plays Howard's love interest, Bernadette—corroborates what Sussman said. , "'Big Bang' is very tightly scripted. Because we shoot in front of a live audience, it's basically like doing a filmed piece of theater, really."
"I love it so much, but you don't want to mess with what they write because it's almost like this beautiful concerto that you don't want to mess up one note of," Rauch added.
Kunal Nayyar, who plays Raj, said improving isn't very common, but the cast does laugh and break character all the time. "Our tapings are so tight; we have it down to a real science. Plus, a lot of the language on the show is so specific that if you change a word, it will mess up the whole speech rhythm. But if we're talking about breaking, I break all the time," he said while
He also states that his own jokes make him break the most, It's my own jokes, actually, which is what makes it so sadly pretentious. I have a lot of one-liners, and if the audience really laughs at one, I just can't keep it together. I know it sounds so lame to laugh at your own jokes."